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City holds meeting on revitalization

July 30, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Minds in Martinsburg are hoping to invigorate the downtown.

The Martinsburg City Council has hired professional planners to study the heart of the city and figure out how to make it better.

City Manager Mark Baldwin said the city is spending $28,000 and Main Street West Virginia is chipping in another $4,000.

With the Eastern Panhandle growing as rapidly as it is, "the (city) council thought it was time to go back and look, What do we want downtown to be?" Baldwin said.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Berkeley County grew by 28 percent in the 1990s, with Martinsburg growing by 6.4 percent.

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As part of the revitalization project, which began two months ago, Frazier Associates of Staunton, Va., has studied and mapped the area and interviewed residents.

Other engineers have studied downtown traffic and parking.

The public was invited to share ideas Monday night at City Hall.

People suggested things they have seen elsewhere - Charleston, S.C.'s painted signs with bits of history posted outside houses; Kenosha, Wis.'s trolleys; and Annapolis's large flower-filled street planters.

Other recommendations included brick roads, sidewalk benches, underpass murals, storefront awnings and even more public restrooms.

Cities "need to do the little nitty things - things that bring you together," Frazier said.

Baldwin said he was glad to see about 40 people attend the meeting.

Frazier began the session by showing 30 slides, each with a downtown snippet.

One scene was an intersection with a traffic light and a few cars. Another was a close-up shot of a plaque designating a building as historic.

Other slides showed a block of Queen Street, a crumbling sidewalk, an alley with weeds and a green banner that reads "downtown Martinsburg."

Audience members were asked to rate each picture with a plus for positive, a minus for negative or a zero for neutral, depending on their immediate reaction. People whispered to each other when they recognized where a picture was taken.

Frazier said his firm will propose ideas for the downtown, then get cost estimates. The proposals should be ready by October or November, he said.

Mayor George Karos said the city will look for grants and funds to fund the work it wants to do.

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